'IDF conscripts should serve 30 months, not 36'

Movement for Quality Government petitions High Court to annul law forcing men to serve longer, says gov’t must draft yeshiva students instead.

IDF soldier with binoculars 370  (photo credit: REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly)
IDF soldier with binoculars 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly)
Hours after the “Tal Law” expired, a government watchdog petitioned the High Court of Justice on Wednesday demanding that the Defense Ministry and Knesset overturn a temporary order that adds six months to men’s obligatory army service.
The Movement for Quality Government (MQG) said that with the Tal Law gone, and the 54,000 yeshiva students who used the law to defer national service for religious studies now obligated to perform military service, the temporary order was no longer necessary to boost IDF manpower.
Mandatory military service has been part of Israeli life since 1949, when the Knesset approved the Defense Service Law (amended in 1986) empowering the IDF to call up all citizens. Under the law, men of military age are required to serve 30 months and women 24 months. However, in 1995, the Knesset passed a temporary order that added six months to men’s mandatory service, and has periodically extended its validity such that the period of regular army service is 36 months for men aged 18 to 26.
While the Defense Service Law applies to all Israelis, in 2002 the Knesset enacted the Tal Law, which provided a legal framework for full-time yeshiva students, mainly from the haredi community, to indefinitely defer military service.
MQG petitioned the court over the temporary law in 2010, asking the state to annul it and in its place extend the draft to include the ultra- Orthodox to overcome the IDF’s manpower issues; with the Tal Law in force the court rejected the petition.
In February, however, the High Court struck down the Tal Law as unconstitutional and with no new legislation to replace it, the Defense Service Law is now operative for all Israelis.
MQG said it was turning to the court again because now the state is empowered to extend the draft to include those tens of thousands of yeshiva students formerly exempted, making it unnecessary for the Knesset to extend the temporary order.
The petition argues that the temporary order is unconstitutional and that it hurts the thousands of young male draftees forced to serve an extra half year in the army.
MQG asked the court to order the state to provide justification for continuing the order if it will not agree to annul it and extend the draft to include yeshiva students.
“The goal of extending the temporary order [so that male regular service soldiers serve an extra six months] is so that the IDF can meet its defense challenges,” MQG argued. “This same goal can be achieved by widening the draft to include yeshiva students.”
Extending the draft to include yeshiva students therefore harms soldiers’ rights less than does the temporary order, which forces male conscripts to serve for longer, MQG contends.
MQG also asked the court to issue an injunction ordering the defense minister to release all male soldiers who have served for more than 30 months.
MQG filed a separate High Court petition on Tuesday, demanding that the court issue injunctions ordering the state to enforce the draft on all citizens, including yeshiva students.
Tuesday’s petition asked the court to order the Defense Ministry and the IDF to explain why they had not yet formulated any policies to draft yeshiva students.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.